‘Discipline is a word that has been ridden long and hard here at St. Martin River Primary,’ said the headmaster, Mr. Herbold van Wyk, or “The Boulder”, as he was often referred to by pupils and staff members alike, although the latter did it behind his back. ‘And why has it been ridden long and hard, children?’
The students of St. Martin River Primary School stared up at the headmaster with blank expressions as he scrutinized them with bulging eyes. Somewhere in the distance a small hand was raised but The Boulder ignored it. He rocked forward on his feet at the pulpit on the stage while watching the children who sat on the cold tiles.
‘I believe that it is due to the fact that we as staff members must constantly used the word discipline that it has been ridden to the point of having a hollow back, do you agree?’
Small eyes watched the sixty-year-old man with his white moustache and black leather coat as if they were expecting him to burst at the seams at any moment. Instead, he lifted his fist in the air as if he were preaching to an army.
‘Discipline is not something I wish to speak of again! I want people to walk the streets of this town complementing the obedience of the pupils of St. Martin River Primary. Do you all understand that?’
A question like that did not get much other than a positive response from the young children who sought only to keep their Master and Commander happy. Little nods and naïve smiles filled the hall where assembly was being held on the first day of the new semester. Some brave older kids giggled but stopped their disrespectful act immediately as they felt The Boulder’s cold stare.
‘Now,’ said The Boulder as he calmed down a bit. ‘Is there anyone here who is having a birthday today?’
Later that day The Boulder was working hard in his office. A cigarette was burning out next to him as he worked on his computer. A knock on the door caused him to jump as he tried his best to minimize the game of solitaire that he had been playing before being caught out.
‘Come inside,’ The Boulder called, getting up from the desk where his computer stood and moving to the large desk where he did most of his paper work. ‘Yes, yes, what is it?’
Trophies lined the room and even a French flag could be seen hanging where it had been placed after the first team of St. Martin River Primary School had defeated a visiting French school.
Johan Bezuidenhout, a fourth grade teacher, entered the office holding eleven-year-old Deacon Smith by the arm. Deacon had been held back a year and didn’t look to happy but seemed to groan like a prisoner in a dungeon.
‘Mr. Van Wyk,’ Johan said with the firm nod of his head.
‘Mr. Bezuidenhout, what do we have here?’ asked The Boulder as he watched Deacon struggle.
‘Deacon Smith, sir. He cut up another boy’s shirt with a pair of scissors. He says he did it as a joke.’
‘I don’t think it’s a joke, Mr. Bezuidenhout, do you?’
‘No, sir, not at all.’
Deacon turned his head away, not looking at the headmaster or his teacher. Tears welled up in his eyes as he realised both educators were waiting for a reply from him.
‘I’ll sort him out, thank you, Mr. Bezuidenhout,’ said the headmaster.
‘Thank you, sir,’ Johan said, leaving the room.
Deacon Smith was closer to crying now and he rubbed his eyes with his red jersey. His face was turning bright red as The Boulder interrogated him. Once the child had been made to feel as guilty as possible, Herbold sent him back to his class. If he couldn’t give them a good thrashing like in the old days then humiliation seemed the logical approach. Smiling to himself, Herbold returned to his solitaire game, remembering fondly the days when the rod was not spared.
The following day the male teachers all sat outside the staff room where they usually smoked. The Boulder took a drag of his Gunston cigarette before coughing like a cancer patient. His reddening face was observed by the other teachers with concern as they feared for their captain’s health. The concern was short-lived, however, as The Boulder soon returned to his normal state.
‘I remember when I was a young teacher,’ The Boulder said, as if he were thinking out loud. As ever the other teachers listened attentively to every word that left his mouth. ‘I was working at Sunville Primary but I was staying at the house of Carl Kinnear, the headmaster of another school: Western Primary. His wife was a first grade teacher at Sunville, where I was just starting out.
‘Now they had a daughter who was about my age at the time (The headmaster and his wife were just about to retire so they might’ve been around 62 years old) Their daughter really helped me a lot and made me feel very welcome. She even organized a party for me where they invited a bunch of people and we all got together and carried on like a couple of first year students.
‘The headmaster’s wife, the first grade teacher, seemed to take a liking to me as well. I was a young man and didn’t know half the stuff I thought I was supposed to. On the night of this same party she ended up kissing me. And not just a peck on the lips, either, she basically shoved her tongue down my throat, it was horrendous. This woman was 62 and I had just come out of university.
‘I knew she was married so I avoided her like the plague for a while but became more and more attached to her daughter who was beautiful and smart. She seemed interested in me too. She didn’t know that her mother had kissed me of course.
‘One night one of the teachers says that he and I should go out for drinks. We drank a bit and soon I invited him over to the headmaster’s house for a night cap. He didn’t seem shy about drinking at his colleague’s husband’s house and so joined me.
‘When we got there I found the headmaster of Western Primary and his wife and daughter all lying naked on the floor of the living room. Completely naked! I couldn’t believe my eyes.’
The teachers in the circle of cigarette smoke laughed as The Boulder shared this experience with them. Half of them laughed without finding a word of the story funny. They laughed because they knew how to suck up to the boss.
‘So I say to the teacher who came to join me for drinks that we should get out of there. He says he thinks we should go for a swim. So he takes off his clothes and jumps in the pool. Apparently, nudism came naturally in this house, with the headmaster and his wife having regular get-togethers where no one had a thread of clothing on.
‘I didn’t join him since it felt like I was bursting at the seams. Here I was seeing the naked body of a woman I had come to admire: the headmaster’s daughter. And this other guy keeps asking me to take my clothes off and have a swim with him. It was by far one of the most disturbing experiences of my life.’
‘I’m going to be honest, sir,’ said Mr. William Killian, who was in charge of discipline at the school. ‘I would’ve dropped my pants and joined in on the fun.’